Rugby: After Navy Seals Camp, US Maccabiah Squad Announced

— by Sara Feinstein

Jeff Simon and Josh Kaplan, 19th Maccabiah USA Open Rugby Co-Chairmen, announced the complete appointment of the Open Men’s Rugby Team that will compete in Rugby 15s and Rugby 7s at the 19th World Maccabiah Games in Israel in July. Final trials took place from January 30 to February 3 at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. Over 40 applicants for the team gathered for intensive fitness training, which included a rigorous workout with the U.S. Navy Seals at their facility on Coronado Island and culminated with a match against the San Diego Aztecs.

After the jump: Soccer team also announces its squad.
Coach Shawn Lipman, Assistant Coaches Gregory Schor Haskin and David Rudzinsky, with Managers Barry Seidel and David Danker, have been working with the Rugby applicants over the last year to develop an elite team through intensive conditioning and fitness training.

“Shawn and the entire management team have done an amazing job of building a foundation for our rugby program, where we have been able to attract the best Jewish Rugby players from the USA,” commented Simon. “We have high expectations for the team to take gold medals in both Rugby 15s and Rugby 7s.”

The team roster includes: Zack Abbott of Ann Arbor, MI; Gabe Adler of Los Angeles, CA; Ross Biestman of Oakland, CA; Jared Braun of Berkeley, CA; David Cohen of Marietta, GA; Joel Cohen of Rockville, MD; Seth Cohen of New York, NY; Shawn Cox of Austin, TX; Matthew Crawford of Walnut Creek, CA; Aaron Davis, Team Vice Captain, of Venice, CA; Elliot Dillon-Herzog of Evanston, IL; Raymond Fleser of Narragansett, RI; Taylor Howden of Denver, CO; Joji Kurosaki of Portland, OR; Max Levine of San Francisco, CA; Guy Matisis of Weymouth, MA; Tanner Mohr of Davis, CA; James Murray of New York, NY; Jacob Poliakoff of Poway, CA; Alan Roniss of Long Beach, CA; William Rudman of San Francisco, CA; Michael Rudzinsky of Reading, MA; Ross Silverman of Santa Barbara, CA; Joshua Slater of Denver, CO; Dallen Stanford, Team Captain, of Santa Monica, CA; Kevin Swiryn of Bellevue, WA; Zach Test of Redwood City, CA; Jasper Wilson of New York, NY; Roman Wilson of Norman, OK; Ilya Wortman of Boston, MA.

David Stone, USA Open Men’s Soccer Chair for the 19th World Maccabiah Games, also announced the Open Men’s Soccer team that will participate in the Games. The team will be coached by Preston Goldfarb, whose vast experience includes coaching soccer at the NCAA level for 30 years. Goldfarb will be assisted by Russ Warren.

“Coach Goldfarb has great tactical abilities, as well leadership qualities that will make him ideal for the Maccabiah Team. The players look up to and respect him,” Stone said. “”I expect this team to be very competitive and they will advance to the medal rounds. The team is well-balanced and made up of very strong, tested athletes from some of the best college and club teams in the nation.”

“Expectations for this team are very high. I believe we have the right players to make this team a strong competitor for the Gold Medal,” Goldfarb said. “I always wanted to coach the Open Men’s Soccer Team after coaching the Juniors Team in 2009. This would be the pinnacle of my coaching career, and having a chance to win the Gold makes it more significant.”

Team members include: David Abidor from Northbrook, IL, a sophomore at the University of Dayton; Alexander Arsht from La Jolla, CA, a junior at the University of California San Diego; Ross Friedman from Bexley, OH, a sophomore at Harvard University; Adam Green from Chicago, IL, a graduate of California University of Pennsylvania; Ryan Jones from Holland, PA, a senior at Marywood University; Matthew Kadoch from Wallingford, PA, a senior at Millersville University; Daniel Kohen from Beverly Hills, CA, a sophomore at San Diego State University; Kovi Konowiecki from Long Beach, CA, a junior at Wake Forest University; Scott Lakin from Deerfield, IL, a junior at Northwestern University; Michael Lisch from Austin, TX, a junior at Wake Forest University; Jacob Lissek from Highlands Ranch, CO, a junior at Fairleigh Dickinson University; Steven Miller from Ivyland, PA, a graduate from Colgate University; Evin Nadaner from Bronx, NY, a junior at Boston University; Charles Paris from Venice, CA, a graduate of Yale University; William Pleskow from Culver City, CA, a sophomore at the University of Washington; Drew Rosenberg from Short Hills, NJ, a senior at Peddie School; Scott Rowling from Richboro, PA, a graduate of the University of New Hampshire; Nathaniel Schnitman from Calabasas, CA, a freshman at the University of California Los Angeles; Gary Weisbaum from Baltimore, MD, a graduate of Loyola University Marymount; and Adam Zernik from San Diego, CA, a senior at the University of California San Diego.

American Jews Support Gun Law Reform

Since last week’s massacre in Connecticut, Jewish politicians and organizations have showed their support of reform in gun laws.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the co-chairman of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition. Following the event the coalition has launched the Demand A Plan campaign:

Our efforts cannot bring back the 20 innocent children murdered in Newtown, CT — or the 34 people murdered with guns every day in America. But we can prevent future tragedies by passing common sense legislation that will:

  1. Require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America.
  2. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
  3. Make gun trafficking a federal crime, including real penalties for “straw purchasers.”

Demand that your members of Congress and the president support these legislative priorities.

More after the jump.

Over 300,000 Americans have already signed the campaign’s petition, and the coalition itself has over 750 mayors as members.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has announced on her website that she will introduce a bill to ban assault weapons on the first day of the new congress.

“Who needs these military-style assault weapons? Who needs an ammunition-feeding device capable of holding 100 rounds? These weapons are not for hunting deer — they’re for hunting people”.

Additionally, over 10,000 Americans have signed a Jewish Council for Public Affairs petition to make access to guns and mental health care a national priority.

“There has been an immediate emotional reaction across the entire country of shock, horror, and deep sadness. But this was not an isolated event. In the past few months, we have seen shootings at malls, theaters, and places of workshop; each one followed by a return to complacency and status quo,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “The grotesque shooting at Newtown and the massive outpouring of support for this petition mark a tonal shift in our country where the need for a comprehensive approach to guns and mental health care are urgent priorities we can no continue to ignore. The thousands of signers are the beginning of a national and sustained effort to make sure future tragedies like this are unimaginable.”

The Jewish Women International organization applauded yesterday president Barack Obama’s announcement of gun violence task force:

“JWI strongly supports the leadership of President Obama and Vice President Biden in reforming our nation’s gun laws in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. We applaud the creation of an interagency task force to address gun violence and urge Members of Congress to enact tough restrictions on guns, most urgently banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. JWI also believes that Congress must improve the quality and accessibility of our nation’s mental health services. As an organization that has worked to address the devastating effects of gun violence and domestic violence for decades, we applaud the Administration’s efforts and urge thoughtful and decisive action from all levels of government.”

In a speech in the House of Representatives, Rep. Alysson Schwartz (D-PA) stated:

We have seen far too many moments of violence and loss. This loss is too devastating to ignore. I believe that even in this time of deep sadness and grief, we must resolve to end such violence. We must do better to understand and treat mental illness. And we must come together to move our nation towards common sense, responsible gun laws. Laws that recognize the responsibility of gun-ownership, and ensure safety and security in our homes, schools, communities, and public spaces.

American Orthodox Jews and Rabbinic Authority

— by Hannah Lee

The United States has the second largest Jewish population in the world, yet we alone have no unifying Orthodox religious hierarchical structure. Other nations with communities of over 100,000 Jews have Chief Rabbis — Israel, United Kingdom, Russia, France, and Italy — while others have informal hierarchy, such as in Australia.  Here in the United States, the local rabbi reports to the synagogue board and the Jewish day school headmaster reports to the school board. We have no national chief rabbi to ensure proper halachic supervision and unification of policies across the board in Orthodoxy, said Rabbi Michael Broyde, Dayan (judge) of the Beit Din of America (the Rabbinical court for Orthodox Jewry) and professor of law at Emory University while speaking at a Hanukkah program at Kohelet Yeshiva High School on Sunday.

More after the jump.
Rabbi Broyde spoke about two of the many perspectives on the Hanukkah story to portray the poles of rabbinic authority in this country. One is that the Hellenists infringed on our religious freedom. “If only they had left us alone, we would not have had to wage war against them.”  Another is that the Hellenists were wrong and rabbinic Jews had to force them to do what is right.

American Orthodoxy has been created in the image of America’s ethos of independent thinking. In his lifetime, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) was the leading halachic authority for Orthodox Jewry in North America. However, he repeatedly declined the title of Chief Rabbi and his writings, such as Responsa Igrot Moshe, reflected his position against organized hierarchy — a tradition that dates back to the Gra (Gaon Rabbi Eliyahu or the Vilna Gaon, who died in 1797) and the Aruch HaShulhan (Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein, who died in 1908). Reb Moshe, as he was known, was fearless and autonomous, who refused to defer to other rabbinic authorities. He exhorted Jews to study and learn for themselves. We are to think and decide for ourselves.

R. Feinstein even considered it acceptable for modern-day halachic authorities to argue with some of the Rishonim, the influential Rabbis and Poskim (jurists) who lived approximately during the 11th to 15th centuries, when they have strong proofs and firm analytic foundations. In tumultuous times, two things tend to happen:

  1. novel situations arise and
  2. historical answers no longer seem to work.

So, we need new answers to modern-day problems. An example that R. Feinstein cites from the Talmud [Maharatz Chayot, Gittin 56a] was about unblemished sacrifices, where Rabbi Zecharya was figuratively blamed for the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple in Jerusalem) because he remained silent on the matter, out of respect or fear of his peers. When one has a particular, even unpopular, understanding of Halacha, one is not permitted to remain silent.

Do we learn from the historic rabbis and follow their rulings? It’s okay to do differently, says Rabbi Broyde, elaborating on Rabbi Feinstein. As the Rishonim are no longer living, we cannot run a community on auto-pilot. God cannot ask us to be right all the time, only that we try our best to follow a halachic process. For example, whereas the Ashkenazim follow the halachic rulings of the Tosefot (medieval commentaries on the Talmud), the Sephardim follow the halachic opinions of the Rambam (Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204). These traditions cannot both be right, but it is our adherence to the legal process, not the result that matters to Orthodox Jewry.

The model for a God-fearing community is a body of laws that are consistent with the sources that bind us. R. Feinstein was very concerned that Jews follow secular law, Dina D’Malchuta Dina. Whereas the Jews in Hungary, for instance, lived in an unjust society seeking to exploit them, and resorted to cheating the government of taxes as necessary to survive, American Jews live in a just society and, thus we have the full obligation to comply with all local and national laws.

During the Q&A session afterward the official presentation, R. Broyde made it clear that sometimes rabbinic decisions are made for the communal good, and not because of halachic requirements. One issue raised by audience members was about the plight of agunot, “chained” women who are not given a get, bill of divorce, by their estranged husbands which results in the women being unable to remarry. “This is a political issue, as there is already a halachic solution,” said R. Broyde, because there is the prenuptial agreement that binds the couple to rabbinic arbitration by a beit din in case of marital disputes. Then the question became: “What about women who do not have one?” The prenuptial agreement has been in use for 25 years, he said. “What if the women had not been counseled by the rabbi to obtain one?” Using the analogy of people who ride motorcycles recklessly without wearing safety helmets, Rabbi Broyde declared, “We cannot expend community resources to clean up after a marital disaster.” And he added: “Communities get the rabbis they deserve… and members can always choose to move to where there is a better rabbi.” Alas for the aggrieved agunot in our communities, even with a prenuptial agreement, the obstacle for most get disputes remains in its enforcement. The secular courts do not give support to any rabbinical court ruling. Would a Chief Rabbinate make a difference for our agunot?

Rabbi Broyde claimed that the communities that have a chief rabbinate have political and social virtues, citing statistics from the United Kingdom: 3/4 of all Jews attend Jewish day school, higher rates of affiliation, and a lower rate of intermarriage. However, I remain unconvinced by this argument and Rabbi Broyde’s hope for a Chief Rabbinate of the United States seems an unlikely outcome in this “land of the free.”

 

Bruce Springsteen Exhibit at the National Constitution Center


David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, admires the 1975 simultaneous Springsteen covers of TIME and NEWSWEEK magazines, part of the new exhibit, “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen.”

— by Bonnie Squires

The National Constitution Center is the only venue to host the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s must-see exhibition, From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen, outside of Cleveland, where the exhibit has been housed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.  The first major exhibition about the American songwriter will run at the Center from February 17 to September 3, 2012.

The opening reception attracted 1100 friends and supporters of the Center, including the Honorable Joan Specter, who serves as Director of Major Grants for the Center, and her husband, Senator Arlen Specter.  Mayor Bob Johnson, of Asbury Park, New Jersey, was also in attendance and greeted the guests from the bandstand.

The B Street Band entertained party-goers with rousing Springsteen renditions, and the food was typical boardwalk-seashore variety, including hot dogs, pop corn, cotton candy, and hamburgers.

More after the jump.


The Honorable Joan Specter, Director of Major Gifts at the Center, and her husband Senator Arlen Specter, admire some of the extraordinary photos of Springsteen included in the exhibit.

“It is fitting that the Center – the only museum dedicated to America’s constitutional freedoms – is the first and only venue in the nation to host this exhibition from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum,” said National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner.  “We are certain that our visitors, from the most devoted Springsteen fans to those experiencing his music for the first time, will be inspired by his commitment to illuminating the struggles and triumphs of `We the People.'”

“I worked very closely with Bruce and his organization to put this exhibit together,” said Jim Henke, vice president of exhibitions and chief curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  “It’s a comprehensive look at Bruce’s entire career and contains numerous items that have never been seen by the public.  The exhibit was a huge hit when it was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I am very happy that even more people will be able to see it now that it’s at the National Constitution Center.”

From Asbury Park to the Promised Land takes a comprehensive look at Springsteen’s career and catalog, from such early bands as Child, the Castiles and Steel Mill through his work with the E Street Band and as a solo artist.  Throughout the 5,000-square-foot exhibition, visitors will have the rare opportunity to view more than 150 items, including:


Robin and David Alpher were among the 1100 people enjoying the opening beach party for the Springsteen exhibit, on loan from the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

  • Family photos of Springsteen’s childhood in Asbury Park, N.J.
  • Scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings, photos and handbills from Springsteen’s early music endeavors
  • Handwritten lyrics from all phases of Springsteen’s career
  • Saxophone used by the late Clarence Clemons to play the solo in “Jungleland” from Born to Run
  • Springsteen’s 1960 Chevrolet Corvette
  • Springsteen’s Fender Esquire from the cover of Born to Run
  • The outfit Springsteen wore on the cover of Born in the U.S.A.
  • Springsteen’s 1993 Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Streets of Philadelphia”

The exhibition also features several listening stations where visitors can hear never-before-released songs by the Castiles; Springsteen’s successful 1972 audition for Columbia Records; and interviews with Springsteen on topics such as his songwriting process, his first recording session, and some of his best known albums.  Video footage throughout the exhibition includes archival performances, an edited version of Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run, and clips of Springsteen’s appearance on MTV Unplugged in 1992.

To complement the exhibition, the Center’s public programming staff is developing a variety of interactive programs and activities for students, teachers and families about the importance of free expression.  The Center also is planning a series of special events celebrating the music of Bruce Springsteen.


Celia Feinstein (third from the right), director of Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities, brought her colleagues along who love Springsteen’s music.

Admission to From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen is $24.50 for adults, $23 for seniors and students and $12 for children ages 4-12.  Group rates also are available.  Admission to the Center’s main exhibition, The Story of We the People, including the award-winning theater production Freedom Rising, is included.  For ticket information, call 215.409.6700 or visit www.constitutioncenter.org.

CBS 3 and The CW Philly are the local media partners for the exhibition.  CBS 3 (KYW-TV) and The CW Philly 57 (WPSG-TV) are part of CBS Television Stations, a division of CBS Corporation.

Photo Credit: Bonnie Squires.


Bob and Sybie Brassler paid tribute to the rock and roll music icon.

Herschel and Betsy Richman enjoy the Asbury Park-like treats at the opening reception, while enjoying the sounds of Springsteen’s rock and roll hits.